In all, 115 people completed the questionnaire. This was a great response to our request and we started to interview people across the range of scores on the questionnaire. To date, we have interviewed 39 people, 26 women and 13 men. This means we are nearing the end of interviewing – though we still have a few people to recruit, from amongst those who have been through the life story programs at York Care Centre and St Joseph’s Hospital in Saint John. We are hoping to complete the interviewing over the summer.
Early on in the interviewing process we met as a research team to start to analyze a few of the interviews, just to see the sorts of things that were being said. We looked at four interviews to identify the types of stories being told about growing older and coping with adversity. These discussions were extremely interesting as we come from different academic disciplines and have different approaches and interest in the data. We looked at not only the content of stories but also how people told their stories. There were some very rich accounts of growing up, full of detail, ups and downs and humor. Some stories left us with the sense that they were ones that had been told many times before – these were polished, ‘signature’ stories. Other stories told of how difficult circumstances had been turned around or what had been learned because of them. Yet others reflected connections with family, friends, interests and the wider community.
Bill Randall presented some of the initial analysis at a conference on aging organized by Mount St Vincent University back in October. Those attending were keen to explore this ‘narrative approach’ to understanding aging as it was different from much of the more medical approach to which they had been exposed previously. We are now looking forward to presenting further analysis based on all the interviews at other conferences – the Canadian Association on Aging and the Gerontological Society of America in October and November respectively. .
So where are we going from here? Our priority for the coming few months is to recruit a number of people who have been through the life history programs at York Care Centre and St Joseph’s Hospital in Saint John. These interviews will give us some sense of how such programs might contribute to the ability of older adults to cope with adversity in later life. We will be continuing to analyze the interviews to test out some of our initial ideas and to see if there are any patterns as to the type of stories told or how these stories are told. We will be looking also to see whether women and men tell different stories or tell stories differently.
Once we have done this we will look to writing an article or two for academic and professional journals. We hope that what we find will make a difference to care practice and to how we think about aging itself.